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It's Not About Manifesting, It's About Taking Action

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“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind,” Marcus Aurelius wrote. “Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.” 

Does that mean Marcus and the Stoics believed in the Law of Attraction—the belief that the Universe creates whatever it is you focus your thoughts on—as popularized by Rhonda Byrne in The Secret?

We get asked this question a lot at Daily Stoic. People read about the Stoic discipline of perception–this idea that we are defined by our thoughts—and draw a parallel to Byrne’s practice of “manifesting.” While the Stoics did believe that our thoughts are extremely powerful, that our worldview does influence what we see, it’s important to note that in Stoicism, the discipline of perception is inseparable from the discipline of action (which is itself followed by a discipline all about acceptance)

For the Stoics, action is the critical variable to making happen what you want to happen. As obvious as this sounds, we get the opposite advice from the Law of Attraction believers. As Byrne puts it, “What we do is we attract into our lives the things that we want and that is based on what we’re thinking.” And one of her disciples says, “You did not come into this environment to create through action.” To take action, she warns, is to insult the Universe’s powers of manifestation. 

Nowhere in the Stoics will you find the advice to sit around, think positive thoughts, and wait for the Universe to magically solve your problems. A life is assembled, Marcus said, action by action. Nowhere does Seneca write to Lucilius, “write yourself a check for a million dollars and then wait.” No. Rouse yourself to action, he tells him, shake off your habit of overthinking with hard work. So yes, the discipline of perception is important. But mainly because it sets you up to take the action necessary to bring into reality that which you perceive. Stoicism has nothing to do with manifesting. 

It is a philosophy of action. It’s a philosophy of action, we might add, designed for an unpredictable world that is largely outside of our control. A Stoic thinks, acts, and then accepts. They do not dream, expect and wait. 

Because they are not entitled, naive children. 

If you’d like to read more about Stoicism and the Law of Attraction, check out this article: Stoicism and The Law of Attraction: The Ancient Truth About Manifestation and Magical Thinking.